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Mecca Death Toll Rises To 76‎

ISSUE 207
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Index

Headlines

Saying A Totalitarian Government Was Preferable ‎To Anarchy, Yemen’s President Saleh Pays Tribute ‎To Siyad Barre For Safeguarding Somali Unity

Eviction Order By Hargeysa’s Mayor Puts ‎Hundreds Of Vegetables Sellers Out Of Business

A Flashpoint For Violence Plans To Relocate ‎Hargeysa’s Slaughterhouse‎

BACK TO AFRICA‎

Somalia’s Islamists‎

The Surud Mountain Forests In Somaliland

Somaliland FilajTEL: Leading Tele Provider Reduces International ‎Rates‎‎

Three British Hostages Freed In Gaza

Local & Regional Affairs

Noted Somali Writer ‘Sangub’ Charged With Molesting Girl 10 Years Ago

Somaliland Phone Firms Reject US Company Bids‎

Starvation Looms In African Horn

Gentleman Pirates Cause Mass Starvation

US Renews Terror Warning Against Travel To Kenya‎‎

Norway Mulls Camel Farming For Refugees‎‎‎‎‎

Ethiopia: Concerns About Political Trials Of Opposition ‎Activists, Human Rights Defenders And Journalists

Somali Piracy Is Worst In World‎

Editorial
Somali Poetry

International News

Al-Qaida: Iraq Withdrawal Victory For Islam

Mecca Death Toll Rises To 76

Yemen Crude oil exports, Somali Pirates and Sana'a Summit Links

Teachers Learn As They Teach Somalis

Attacks Against UN Personnel Continued Unabated ‎Throughout 2005, UN Staff Union Says‎

Favorable Weather Improves Food Security Situations

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

The Dusty Foot Philosopher

RP Among Most Dangerous For Journalists In 2005‎‎

Africa Will Progress, The Devil Is In The Type Of Leaders It Gets

The UK To Announce Within Days Whether To Ban Khat

Notice Board

BOOK REVIEW

Opinions

Much To Our Surprise, Hargeysa’s Water Situation Has Improved Under Ali Asad’s Stewardship‎

The Beauty Of Our Time‎

The AU: Time To Remove Obstacles To Somaliland ‎Recognition‎‎‎

When A Dubious Business Deal Is Masqueraded As Government Policy‎

Borrowed Thinking; Flawed Analysis: A Reply To Tani!‎‎

THE FINAL DISMEMBERMENT


Mecca, January 7, 2006 (AP) – Hundreds of men using cranes, hand tools and blow torches pulled bodies from the rubble of a four-story building that collapsed in Islam's holiest city, and authorities said Friday the death toll reached at least 76.

The Saudi Interior Ministry also said Thursday's collapse injured 62. The nationalities of the victims were not released.

The disaster marred the start of the annual gathering of millions of Muslims for the hajj pilgrimage that begins Monday. More than 1 million attended Friday prayers in the Grand Mosque, which is just 200 feet away from the building that collapsed.

On Friday afternoon, about 24 hours after the collapse, workers called off the search for survivors in the pile of concrete and steel. The building had shops and restaurants and was used as a hotel during the hajj.

"We did all we can. The operation is now over," said the general in charge of the site, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Hundreds of men had worked through Thursday night, under spotlights and with cranes and blow torches, to remove huge slabs of concrete, occasionally stopping to use microphones to listen for survivors. While people were rescued Thursday, workers found nobody alive Friday.

"Fortunately, the building was almost empty when it collapsed, because most of the residents were in the holy shrine," civil defense Maj. Gen. Alwani, who did not provide his first name, told state-run Al-Ekhbariya television. "Most of the casualties were from the passers-by."

An unidentified government official told Al-Ekhbariya the building's foundations were cracked and weak.

However, the operator of the hotel, Habib Turkestani, a relative of the Saudi owner, told The Associated Press the structure was safe.

"What happened was a matter of fate and divine decree," Turkestani said.

He said the hotel guests included 18 French citizens of Tunisian origin, four British nationals of Bangladeshi origin and four people from the United Arab Emirates. Other victims are believed to be from Indonesia.

Tunisia said four of its nationals were killed while in Cairo.

The Interior Ministry said no Egyptian nationals were among the dead.

The injured were treated in hospitals in Mecca and Jiddah, about 40 miles to the east.

"It was a horrible accident, but my Muslim brothers who died will go to paradise," said a Pakistani pilgrim, Rahimi Farouki, referring to the victims.

According to Islam, anyone who dies on the way to, or during, the hajj is a martyr and goes to heaven.

The Prophet Mohammed was born in Mecca. The courtyard of its Grand Mosque contains the Kaaba, a large stone structure that Muslims around the world face during their daily prayers.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam that Muslims are obliged to undertake at least once in their lifetime if they can afford it. The other pillars are to profess that there is only one god and Mohammed is his prophet, to pray five times daily, to give alms and to fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

The number of pilgrims to Mecca has increased eleven fold during the past 15 years. During that time, the Saudi government has spent billions of dollars to improve accommodations, transportation and medical facilities for the "guests of Allah."

The hajj has suffered numerous tragedies in recent years. The worst was in 1990, when 1,426 pilgrims were killed during a stampede in an overcrowded tunnel leading to a holy site in Mecca.

On the hajj's final day in 2004, 251 people were trampled to death when the crowd panicked during the stoning of the devil ritual.


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